Monthly Archives: February 2011

Daring Bakers Challenge: Panna Cotta with Bailey’s Irish Cream Gelee & Florentine Cookies

I recently joined the Daring Kitchen as a Daring Baker.  This community of Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks come together once a month to cook and/or bake the same challenging recipe and then blog about it.  The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen.  She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.  Because we have the freedom to play around with the flavors, I decided to make a vanilla Panna Cotta with Bailey’s Irish Cream gelée along with the crunchy Florentine cookies.

Now, I’ll have to admit, Florentines aren’t my favorite cookies – if you don’t have parchment paper, forget about it.  They will turn into a gooey mess!  I don’t care for the texture of the cookies, but since this was the challenge I decided to go for it.  The Panna Cotta came out delicious and creamy, while the Bailey’s Irish Cream gelée was amazing and I probably could have eaten it by itself.  The Florentine cookies were also crunchy and sweet and delicious with the panna cotta.  It was the perfect after-dinner dessert/drink all rolled into one.  Enjoy!

Panna Cotta Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tbsp (one packet) (¼ oz) unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 3 cups whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt


  1. Pour the milk into a bowl or pot and sprinkle gelatin evenly and thinly over the milk (make sure the bowl/pot is cold by placing the bowl/pot in the refrigerator for a few minutes before you start making the Panna Cotta). Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
  2. Pour the milk into the saucepan/pot and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat this mixture until it is hot, but not boiling, about five minutes. (I whisk it a few times at this stage).
  3. Next, add the cream, honey, sugar, and pinch of salt. Making sure the mixture doesn’t boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the sugar and honey have dissolved 5-7 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into the glass or ramekin.
  5. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

Bailey’s Irish Cream Gelèe Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups Irish Cream coffee
  • 1/2 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur
  • 1/4 cup hot water, plus 2 tbsp cold water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin


  1. Place granulated sugar and hot water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Sprinkle gelatin over 2 tbsp cold water and let it soften 2 minutes to soften.
  3. Stir the coffee, Bailey’s Irish Cream, sugar, and hot water into a small metal bowl, add gelatin mixture and stir well until gelatin has dissolved.
  4. Pour over chilled Panna Cotta.  Be sure that Panna Cotta is no longer hot because it will melt it.  Refrigerate overnight or until hard.

*Adapted from this recipe in Gourmet Magazine

Nestle Florentine Cookies:

  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1½ cups milk chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F and prepare your baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.
  3. To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula (these spread out a lot so make sure they’re spaced far enough apart).
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.
  5. While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl).
  6. Peel the cookies from the parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean).
  7. Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate.

*This recipe will make about 2 1/2 – 3 dozen sandwiched Florentine cookies. You can also choose not to sandwich yours, in which case, drizzle the tops with chocolate (over your wax paper).



Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts

Hungarian Goulash

My mom has a very old and tattered cookbook from 1978 called Betty Crocker’s Cookbook.  This cookbook has been a staple in my mom’s kitchen and whenever I see it, it reminds me of my childhood.  Hungarian Goulash is a recipe from that cookbook that my mom has made for our family for as long as I can remember.  The page with the goulash recipe is even stained with food and spices from all the times my mom has made this dish.  It’s delicious with amazing and unique flavors.  You can serve the goulash over rice, over egg noodles, over pasta, etc.  While I was at home visiting my parents, my mom and I made this dish for dinner one night.  The flavors instantly reminded me of my childhood, trudging up our snow-covered driveway after school to instantly be greeted by the flavors of paprika and brown sugar.  Yum!

Do you have a recipe that instantly reminds you of your childhood whenever you smell it or taste it?


  • 2 pounds stew beef
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 3/4 cup Ketchup
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried mustard
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Egg noodles or thin spaghetti
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 lb pasta or egg noodles


  1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat, and brown beef, onion, and garlic.  Drain any excess juice.
  2. Meanwhile, mix beef stock, Ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, salt, paprika, and mustard with a wire whisk until smooth.
  3. Add sauce to beef mix and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cover and simmer over low heat until beef is tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
  4. Mix corn starch and water in a small bowl and add to the beef goulash.  Bring beef mix back to a boil for 1 minute, stirring until thickened.
  5. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions and serve goulash over the top.
  6. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.

Adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cookbook (1978 edition)


Filed under Main Course

Pistachio Chocolate Bars

For my dad’s birthday, he requested something with pistachios.  Normally, my mom makes him a delicious pistachio cake, but this year we decided to make him something a little different as well as something fairly healthy since my mom is on Weight Watchers.  My sister, mom, and I decided to make him some pistachio chocolate bars.  We found several different recipes online and took bits and pieces from each one.  We wanted to make a bar that could be frozen with a graham cracker crumb base and pistachio pudding incorporated into it.  This bar is delicious because it has 5 layers: a graham cracker crumb base, a layer of chocolate, a layer of pistachio pudding, a layer of Cool Whip, and a layer of fresh chopped pistachios.  These bars are delicious and they’re pretty healthy too (we used low-fat pistachio pudding, low-fat graham crackers, and low-fat Cool Whip)!

Do you like pistachio-based desserts?  What are your favorites?


  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 cups milk, plus 2-3 tbsp
  • 1 package instant pistachio pudding mix
  • 1 container (8 oz) of Cool Whip
  • 1/4 cup chopped pistachios


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 11 x 7-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs and sugar and stir in melted butter. Press crumb mixture onto bottom of pan and bake 8 minutes.  Allow to cool.
  3. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips and add 2-3 tbsp milk until smooth. Spread over crust and refrigerate until hard, about 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, combine pistachio pudding mix with 2 cups milk and whisk until creamy and smooth, 2 minutes.  Refrigerate pudding 10-15 minutes or until set.
  5. Once chocolate has hardened, spread pudding evenly over top of chocolate.  Spread Cool Whip on top of pistachio pudding and sprinkle with crushed pistachio nuts.
  6. Freeze bars until hardened, about 2 hours.


Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts

Fruit, Nut & Honey Bars

Happy President’s Day!  I’m so happy that with this new job comes a sleu of new holidays that I have off.  Since my sister and I had a long weekend, we decided to drive up to Syracuse and celebrate my father’s birthday with him.  We had a great trip home; there was a lot of quality family time, Syracuse beat Rutgers in overtime, and we baked a lot.  All in all, it was a very nice and relaxing weekend.  One of the treats my mom, sister, and I baked were these fruit, nut and honey bars.  My mom is on Weight Watchers and doing an amazing job!  She found this recipe in her WW magazine.  We made a few changes like adding sliced almonds and dried blueberries.  These bars came out delicious and flavorful.  The honey really gives the bars a nice sweetness without all the calories.  Add whatever dried fruits or nuts you’d like.  Enjoy!


  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 ground flaxseeds
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9″ square baking pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat honey, eggs, and salt with a fork until blended.
  3. Add oats, blueberries, apricots, almonds, white chocolate chips, and flax seeds and stir until combined (mixture will be fairly sticky).
  4. Add whole wheat flour and mix until combined.
  5. Press dough evenly into pan and bake for 25 minutes or until edges are brown.
  6. Allow to cool completely before cutting and removing foil from bottom.

*Adapted from Weight Watchers


Filed under Baked Goods, Breakfast

Turkey & Rice Stuffed Green Peppers

Ok, I’ll admit it… I think I’m in love with my slow cooker.  It’s hard not to be since this little guy saves me so much time.  My new job’s hours are much earlier than my previous job, so I find that coming home and having dinner ready to go is the best feeling in the world.  Stuffed green peppers are such a versatile dish because you can stuff them with literally whatever you want.  I like to make my stuffed green peppers with a mix of long grain rice, ground turkey, and tomato sauce.  Then, I like to add some more veggies to the mix and spice them up a bit.  I normally just bake my stuffed green peppers in the oven, but since I’m trying this new thing where I use my slow cooker more, I decided to cook my stuffed peppers in the slow cooker!  The peppers came out tender, flavorful, and most importantly, they were a time saver!

What do you like to stuff your green peppers with?


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 green bell peppers, seeded and ribs removed
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup long-grain rice (I used Jasmine)
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • One 8-ounce can tomato sauce, reserve 1/2 cup
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cumin


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat, then add the onions jalapeno, and carrots and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the ground turkey to the mix and saute until brown.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the rice and stir to mix.
  4. Add the tomato sauce (reserve 1/2 cup for later use) and 2 cups of water and season with salt, pepper, and cumin.
  5. Scoop the turkey and rice mix into each of the green peppers.
  6. Place 1 1/2 cups of water on the bottom of a slow cooker and place stuffed green peppers inside.  Spoon remaining tomato sauce over the tops of the peppers.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until green peppers are tender.


Filed under Main Course

Slow Cooker Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon is a French dish usually braised in red wine – I’m glad you can’t hear how I’m butchering this word.  I’m blaming it on the fact that I took Spanish in high school and Italian in college, sorry no French.  No matter how you pronounce “Bourguignon,” one word that I know and love is “slow cooker.”  My slow cooker has been my life saver recently.  Things have been so hectic around our house, and it’s nice to have dinner waiting for us when we get home.  I’ve made this dish before, but never in my slow cooker.  I made a few tweaks to my original recipe, and I must say that this dish in the slow cooker is amazing.  The meat is so tender and the flavors are wonderful because they have such a nice, long time marinating together.  I cooked some whole wheat egg noodles to serve the beef on top of.  You could use whatever carbohydrate you’d like.  Definitely try this one in your slow cooker… you’ll be so happy you did!

  • 6 strips maple bacon
  • 3 pounds stew beef cubes
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper for sprinkling
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 2 cups red wine (I used Cabernet)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • Egg noodles
  1. Sauté bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon and place on paper towels off to the side.
  2. Add beef cubes to skillet and brown. Remove meat and set aside.
  3. Cook carrots, onion, and celery in skillet until brown, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Stir flour in broth and mix well.  Add to skillet.
  5. Add beef and bacon to skillet and mix.  Place entire mix in bottom of slow cooker.
  6. Add wine, tomato paste, garlic, bay leaf, parsley, and mushrooms to slow cooker.
  7. Cook on low for 5-6 hours or until thoroughly cooked.
  8. Boil water and cook egg noodles according to directions.
  9. Serve beef mixture over egg noodles and sprinkle with fresh parsley.


Filed under Main Course

Citrus Sugar Cookies

Happy Valentine’s Day!! When I was a little girl, my Dad had 3 valentines every year(my mom, me, and my sis).  He would bring home 1 big bouquet of flowers and big box of chocolates for my mom and 2 smaller bouquets and box of chocolates for my sister and I.  He sure knew how to make all his girls feel special!  In honor of this special day, I decided to make some citrus sugar cookies.  Adding citrus zest to these cookies gives them a wonderful flavor, so you don’t need to add frosting (well of course you can add frosting if you want), but I just added some colored sugar for presentation.  These cookies are delicious and perfect for your special someone.  Hope you are enjoying your day!


  • 1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Decorative sugar for sprinkling


  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy.  Add sugar and beat for 2 minutes until combined.
  2. Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat until smooth.
  3. In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and zests and add to butter mix.  Beat on low until combined.
  4. Scrape the dough onto a work surface and divide into 2 discs.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
  5. Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. On a floured work surface, roll out one disc of dough to 1/4 inch thick.  Using a heat cookie cutter, cut out shapes and place on baking sheet.
  8. Repeat with the remaining dough scrapes being sure not to roll the dough more than 2 times, as it will become tough.
  9. Repeat with the second disc of dough.
  10. Sprinkle tops of cookies with sugar.
  11. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until tops are light golden.  Allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before moving to a wire rack.


Filed under Baked Goods, Desserts

Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings

Life has been very hectic around here lately, and I’ve found myself cooking less and less when I get home from work.  In order to make a nice meal for my hubby and I to enjoy after a long day, I decided that I need to utilize my slow cooker more.  I love slow cooker recipes, but I have a tendency to make the same old soups and chili.  It finally hit me that there are tons of great recipes I can make with my slow cooker besides the same old standbys.  I decided I’d make chicken and dumplings – it’s comfort food and exactly the dish we wanted waiting for us when we walked in the door!  This dish came out delicious and was a nice alternative to the usual fare that my hubby and I eat.  The best part was the smell that consumed us as we walked through the door.  It was so nice to have dinner ready to go too!

Disclaimer:  Do not eat this dish right before you go to a Zumba class.  Your tummy will be too full to move!  Give it like 1-2 hours to digest.  🙂

In other news, I finally got around to purchasing my URL.  My new blog address is  (Don’t worry if you’ve already subscribed to my blog, WordPress automatically forwards your info on.)


  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 pounds of chicken thighs (I used bone-in, but took the skin off)
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp minced parsley, plus more for sprinkling
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to season
  • 1 can refrigerated biscuits
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp flour


  1. In a large skillet, saute onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil until tender, about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, sprinkle chicken thighs liberally with sea salt and fresh ground pepper and place in the bottom of your slow cooker.
  3. On top of the chicken, add the sautéed onions, carrots, and celery, chicken broth, wine, bay leaf, parsley, and allspice.
  4. Cook on low for 6-7 hours.
  5. When chicken is done, remove thighs from slow cooker and allow to cool.
  6. Turn slow cooker on high.
  7. While chicken is cooling, mix flour and cream together in a small bowl, then stir into slow cooker.
  8. Open package of biscuits, cut each one into 4 pieces and drop into slow cooker.
  9. Cook biscuits until they are firm about 45-60 minutes.
  10. After biscuits have cooked and chicken has cooled, de-bone and return to slow cooker.
  11. Serve chicken and dumplings in a bowl while hot.
  12. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper.


Filed under Main Course

Peanut Butter and Nutella Rice Krispy Bites

First and foremost, I want to wish my amazing father a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I love you and can’t wait to see you and celebrate your big day! 🙂

You’ve probably heard me ramble on about how much I love peanut butter.  It’s definitely one of my favorite things!  When I was living in Italy, I didn’t eat peanut butter.  You could find it in certain stores, but it was really expensive, and anyways, I was enjoying Italian peanut butter (i.e. Nutella).  All was well in the world or at least in my little world in Italy, that is, until I got very sick.  I went to the doctor with a very deep chest cough.  It made my whole body ache whenever I coughed.  I was even bedridden for an entire weekend on the island of Capri.  It was awful especially when I was missing out on this paradiso (luckily, my family would come over to visit me later and we would go back to Capri again).  The doctor told me I had laryngitis and gave me a prescription for cough syrup, but after several days, the cough syrup was not helping.  My mom decided to be my wonderful mom and take matters into her own hands… she sent me a care package.  Inside this box I found the following items:

  • Dayquil
  • Nyquil
  • Amoxicillin
  • A green shirt for St. Patty’s Day
  • A 3.5 pound bag of gummies from Wegmans bulk food
  • A huge jar of Jif peanut butter

Not only was I feeling better in a day, but I was also enjoying Nutella and my beloved peanut butter.  It was then that I realized that Nutella and peanut butter do not have to be mutually exclusive!  We can love them both in their own delicious, heavenly ways.  So this recipe for peanut butter and Nutella Rice Krispy bites is based off of my epiphany.  Hope you guys enjoy this recipe!


  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 cups Rice Krispies
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Sprinkles for decorating


  1. Mix the peanut butter, Nutella, sugar, and melted butter in a mixing bowl until combined.
  2. In a Ziploc bag, place Rice Krispies and crush with a rolling pin.
  3. Add Rice Krispies to peanut butter mix and stir with wooden spoon until a dough forms.
  4. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.
  5. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate until smooth, about 1 minute.
  6. Roll dough into 1″ balls, dip into melted chocolate, and place on wax paper.
  7. Immediately top bites with sprinkles while chocolate is still wet.
  8. Allow bites to dry completely before eating.
  9. Can also be stored in Tupperware in the refrigerator.


Filed under Desserts

Baked Polenta and Reasons to Celebrate

There were several reasons for my hubby and I to celebrate this past weekend; first, I got a new job that I’m very excited about, one that could open a lot of new doors for me; second, my hubby got some really great news at work; third, yesterday was my blog’s 1-year anniversary (can’t believe how far my blog has come and so excited for what the future holds!) and; fourth, we got a new car!!  We’ve been talking about getting a new car for a while, but we finally bought one this past Saturday.  We are so excited to not only have a brand new car, but to have 2 cars.  It’s been quite challenging over the past year to share a car and try to coordinate our schedules.  Because we’ve got a lot to be happy about right now, we decided to celebrate Saturday night by going out to dinner at a great sushi place in Old Town Alexandria.  We both love sushi, and it’s one of those things that I don’t make at home (probably couldn’t if I tried!).

I also decided I’d prolong our celebration by making my hubby a special dinner on Sunday.  My hubby loves steak, so I made steak au pouvoir (stay tuned) and baked polenta with marinara sauce.  Polenta is so easy to make (it’s really just cornmeal) and so versatile since you can add whatever you want to it.  I like to add Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs to mine.  This time, I had some parsley on hand, so I added that.  I also wanted to take my polenta a step further by cutting shapes into it and then baking.  Since Valentine’s Day is coming up, I decided that using heart cookie cutters would be cute especially when dipped in the red marinara sauce.  Hope you guys enjoy this recipe!


  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup marinara sauce, for dipping


  1. Bring the milk, water, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. With a whisk, slowly pour corn meal into liquid stirring constantly.
  2. Turn down heat to low and continue stirring until the polenta thickens, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and stir in cheese and parsley.
  4. With a spatula, spread polenta out onto a baking sheet about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  6. Line a clean baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  Using a cookie cutter, cut out shapes in polenta and place onto parchment-lined baking sheet.
  7. Using your fingers or a brush, rub each piece with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  After 10 minutes of baking, flip pieces over.
  9. Meanwhile, heat marinara sauce in a small saucepan.  Dip polenta pieces into marinara sauce and enjoy.


Filed under Baked Goods, Side Dishes